It was a place Samford University wide receiver Sam Rogers never expected to be.
On Oct. 18, he was in a room at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa and saw one of his best friends, Schuyler Bradley, 19, take his last breath.
Bradley, on the football team with Rogers at Carmel (Indiana) High School, was walking with friends when he was shot, allegedly after an argument.
Rogers, away from home in his first year at Samford University in Birmingham, said he relied on his faith in Christ through the tragic death of his friend.
“James 4:8 [says] ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.’ That is something I take to heart. When I draw near to Him, I feel love and comfort,” Rogers said.
The redshirt freshman seeks to reflect the love of Christ on campus, and said he plans to always treat others “as I would treat myself.” His teammates see that quality in him.
“On and off the field, Sam spreads his love and heart to people no matter who they are,” sophomore wide receiver Jason Houston said.
As a teen, Rogers’ faith grew as he served on missions teams to Nicaragua with his student group from North Park Community Church, Carmel. The groups helped distribute food, install a water tower and play with local children.
Those trips, Rogers said, “propelled” his faith.
“To see another part of the world, to see people in poverty love Jesus unconditionally, even when they are under the circumstances no one wants to be in, made me realize how fortunate I am,” Rogers said. “No matter what, I am going to love the Lord. That was significant in my walk.”
His freshman year of college hasn’t been easy. The pandemic caused Samford to shift its football season from fall to spring. Then the death of his friend, combined with being away from home, tested his faith, he said. But God has reassured him that he is in the right place.
“I have this feeling in my spirit that He has called me here for a reason,” Rogers explained.
As Samford took the field in this unusual spring football season, his work ethic coupled with his outspoken faith inspires those around him.
“I truly love being around Sam, and I am very appreciative of the impact he makes on me daily,” said Mitch Stewart, Samford’s wide receiver coach.
Rogers’ biggest contribution to Samford football is his willingness to play different positions as needed, Stewart said.
“This year with everything that has gone on with COVID and constantly having guys out for quarantine … his willingness and ability to be moved around proved very valuable,” Stewart explained. “His work ethic and attitude … never change.”
Teammate J.D. Beall, Rogers’ roommate and a Bible study leader for the team, describes him as “one of the hardest working guys on the team.”
“He’s the guy you look for to always be consistent,” Beall said. “He makes all the routine catches but also the perfect catches that are simply elegant. He is a fun player to watch.”
Samford sophomore running back Jay Stanton echoed Beall’s praise.
“Sam is an amazing, hard worker, and does the job on the field and then some,” he said. “That’s all you can ask from your teammate.”
Rogers said regardless of what happens on the field, his faith will always be first. “I want to live life to the fullest. I want to love people. I want to continue to lead others to Christ and continue to strengthen my relationship with Christ.”
Stewart added, “I believe that when you get in tough situations the light in you has to burn brighter than the light on you. Having the ability to share that with our players and having the ability to ask guys like Sam to share that with players is a huge advantage we have here at Samford.”
Samford finished the 2021 spring football season with four wins and seven losses.
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